Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The little pond at the bottom of the top field reflects the fading evening light in ripples: motion in an otherwise still scene. A pair of Mallard ducks are busy catching a last snack before dark. Where will they sleep safely tonight? Probably they will leap into the air and fly across the dark, rocky, tree covered hills to the still faintly reflecting surface of a lake. Soon though, they will be nesting somewhere in our woods and someday will once again lead a troop of ducklings across our lawns.
The salmonberry bushes are now in full blossom, sprinkling the stream side with vivid colour and our orchard looks just about to burst. We worry though, timing is everything and if this cold air mass stays with us there will be no insects for pollinating the apricots and peaches that blossom so early. We will have to fill the breach with a fluffy paint brush lashed to a long pole and, swinging among the blossoms, assist their pollination.
The same force that tucked all to bed for the winter is bringing everything back to life and I feel it too. I have found myself rushing the canoe project to completion and switching to garden work. My heart leaps up with the ducks.
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age:
that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I got the liner notes and read the words:
"The winds have changed the sunburned trees;- vanilla hills grow brittle coats.
A last strong cry to face the winter rise up from their golden throats.
Their songs are leaves upon the water carried on the rivers back. The current draws them fiercely under,-the season of their beauty gone."
Sung a capella, I found it very moving, partly because it deals with end of life transitions that are increasingly within my own province, but also because it is making fresh language out of my much loved familiar landscape. It goes on to sing of the salmon that faithfully struggle up the river and, when all about is dying with the advance of the winter season, carry the promise of new life beyond death: new eggs placed in the river gravel giving the promise of the renewal of life in the spring. The song then offered the final blessing:
"So gather strength like songs in baskets, summer petals, autumn leaves. Join the fools against the current, journey on to glory land."
What appealed to me when I thought about it later was the reaching out to find in a salmon run ( which is common enough as to be ignored by most of our busy citizens) a new way of expressing an old truth usually understood in terms of well established religious imagery carried over here from Europe. Surely, I thought, that is the true function of the arts: to rebirth perennial life stories into local, accessible forms for new generations to participate in.
A few months later we were invited to an annual mid summer "Christmas party" during which a game would be played which involved the exchange of cheap, funny gifts. As I knew a commercial fisherman would be there, and that declining salmon stocks affected his livelihood, I thought of the song and the fertility of the imagery and decided to make a shrine to salmon which would feature a section of stream bed and salmon eggs in the gravel. A shrine for the increase of salmon; wishing them well. To make in more interesting, it would be in kit form: gravel and eggs to be placed by the new owner in such a way that he would be performing the act of the salmon spawning in symbolic form. I must admit though, that I was thinking a visual idea through, and this mock up would be a good way to test it out. Or so I hoped.
Of course in the end it was not really funny and the point was missed ( a pretty esoteric idea, after all) but at least it fitted fairly well among all the gifts that were being traded around. For me, that did not matter because before the party, in doing a trial run with all the ingredients, -placing the gravel, depositing the eggs (orange beads), covering them with more gravel, I had discovered that I was actually performing a powerful ritual. It was dead serious, not funny at all, except perhaps in that I had thought it could be merely a harmless diversion .
I had been reminded that the arts have their roots in that mysterious realm usually approached by religion. There is a lot of spirit here, the knowledge of which reaches back for humans to their earliest beginnings. Its part of our urge to create art, to feel the extacy and, whether we know it or not, to bring new meaning to our societies. We think aesthetics, but we touch elemental stuff.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I could not have experienced this from my bedroom window at home!
What I have seen so dramatically is the dance of life and death, hunter and hunted that has been played out endlessly since life began to live off other life in the unimaginably distant past of our planet. It is one aspect of the song of life: all of us bound together in an eternal symphony that changes players but never stops. Time loses relevance in such a repeated cycle and I see my own life differently.
Its still the same old story
A fight for love and glory,
A case of do or die.
The fundamental things of life
As time goes by.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
She has recently picked up an old skill again after many years and is deeply involved in washing fleeces, dying, spinning and knitting. Her sweaters are spectacular, but the significance is not completely contained in the end product. Heather is a writer, with two published books, and many poems, short stories and magazine articles. While away sailing she completed two children`s novels, but now we are home again at last, she has stopped writing. Her drive to write has shifted back to work in textiles. She has been very busy in the last few years providing wedding dresses and beautifully designed and crafted wedding quilts for all three of our daughters and is totally involved in the development of two new grandchildren: a return to another level of parenting and the textile creativity of earlier motherhood years.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I was sitting on deck in the pale wintery sunshine, eating my lunch and idly poking my pocket knife into a slight pucker in the paint on the wooden mast beside me. My eyes were caressing the splendor of my beautifully polished and painted schooner. Pride of ownership. Months of hard work. Just then the knife blade slid smoothly in to the hilt!
Loading the new masts.
Guiding the new foremast into place.
Monday, March 3, 2008
The day I decided to do a long series of ink paintings, I leafed through many years of sketch books looking for a stock of meaningful images. I wanted to keep on painting without breaking my focus and having to pause to look for new imagery. I was surprised to discover how many of my sketches were of beaches: sea, rock, sand and driftwood in all their variations. Perhaps those formative childhood years spent playing on the beach have built themselves into me.
In common with many artists I have a sense that something is painting through me, or that the act of painting is also creating me. I know that when I am in a landscape that I identify with most strongly I feel my personal boundaries expand. The elements are thinking me as I am thinking them. The mind is not contiguous with the brain.
We all know the power of being part of a group`s focus on a common purpose, be it a choir, or a crew or, unfortunately, a mob. We find our individual nature subsumed into a larger entity. It is just a fact of human nature, but it can also be displayed in more heterogeneous communities: myself, the rocky shore washed by the sea, a passing seagull, the flicker of reflected light and the ruffle of breeze in my hair. All these aspects of the world can expand my own nature and act through me and on to the paper.
The battered log in this painting probably fell into the Fraser River during a spring flood and was divested of it`s branches and bark as it tumbled against canyon walls on it way to the sea. It has had all but its most essential form sanded and bleached as it visited many shores in the Gulf of Georgia. When I see it and draw it, we reach out to each other, man and log, ( both a little battered) and record that shared moment on paper.